Brannen coaches Tide to NIT win: Potential Tide coaching candidates Tom Crean and Gregg Marshall will meet in Big Dance

hunter fordInterim Alabama basketball coach John Brannen may have thrown his hat into the coaching search by overseeing a 79- 58 Tide victory over Illinois in the opening round of the NIT last night.

Two more realistic candidates for Alabama’s vacant head basketball coaching job will square off in the NCAA Tournament, Friday afternoon.

Gregg Marshall will lead the Wichita State Shockers against Tom Crean and the Indiana Hoosiers, at approximately 1:45 p.m., CST, at Omaha.

Marshall has led the Shockers to four consecutive NCAA Tournament bids.  His 2013 team reached the Final Four.  His 2014 team went 35-0 before falling to Kentucky in the third round of the Big Dance last season.   Marshall guided the Shockers to a NIT Championship in 2011, defeating Anthony Grant and Alabama in the championship game.

Before landing at Wichita State, Marshall had a successful tenure at Winthrop, guiding that program to seven NCAA Tournaments in nine seasons.

Marshall has been named a fan favorite to replace Grant, in a recent Al.com reader’s poll.

Crean has been hailed by some Hoosier fans for raising the once proud IU program from the ashes.   He inherited a program that had been decimated by NCAA sanctions.

He suffered three losing campaigns before leading the Hoosiers back to the Big Dance three of the past four seasons.

Indiana made it by the skin of its teeth this season.  The Hoosiers lost eight of their last twelve games to end the regular season this year.  Many Indiana fans have turned on Crean, and rumors are flying he’s ready to skip town, with a player or two in tow.

In his previous job, Crean led the Marquette Eagles to five NCAA Tournaments in nine seasons, including a Final Four appearance in 2003.

Crean has a relationship with Nick Saban, stemming from his stint as an assistant coach for Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo.  Saban and Izzo were compadres when Saban coached the Spartan football squad in the 1990’s.

Here are a few more fish, that could be in the sea of Alabama basketball coach candidates.

The 2015 Alabama Crimson Tide, with Brannen at the helm, lives to fight another day in the NIT.   The Tide takes on the Miami Hurricanes, Saturday, in Miami.   The game will be televised by ESPN at 10:00 a.m. CST.